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Bulldogs' secret is out

Barton knocks down another top 10 foe, beats 4th-ranked Trojans, 8-5, in series opener Friday

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MOUNT OLIVE — As if a win over defending NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas champion North Greenville and another over then nationally 10th-ranked Catawba wasn’t enough to earn the Barton College baseball team some respect, the Bulldogs served notice Friday they are not the squad that went 12-36 in head coach Jim Chester’s first season last spring.

Barton got another solid outing from its pitching staff and took advantage of host Mount Olive’s mistakes in a four-run fifth inning to hand the nationally ranked Trojans an 8-5 loss Friday afternoon at Scarborough Field. 

“I thought today was a great team victory, just like all the other ones,” Chester said in a postgame telephone interview. “I thought we got decent pitching and timely hitting and we played some good defense.”

It was the first loss in six conference outings for Mount Olive, ranked fourth in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Div. II poll, as it dropped to 13-3 overall. Barton, in matching its 2018 Conference Carolinas wins output, rose to 4-3 in league games and 16-8 overall. The Bulldogs received the No. 10 ranking in the NCBWA’s Div. II Southeast Region poll that was released Thursday with the Trojans holding down the top spot. It was Barton’s first win against its archrival since the first game of a doubleheader in Fleming Stadium on April 1, 2016.

The teams conclude the three-game series Saturday with a doubleheader, starting at 11 a.m.

Junior right-hander Colby Shimmel allowed just one run on four hits and six walks in his five innings on the mound for the Bulldogs. 

“He’s a very gritty and tough young man and I knew what we were getting when we got him,” Chester said of the transfer from Hagerstown (Maryland) Community College and native of Windsor, Pennsylvania. “He’d tell you he didn’t have his best stuff today but he was able to grit it out.” 

Shimmel (3-1), who struck out six, turned it over to sophomore lefty Alex Hart after throwing his third straight scoreless inning in the bottom of the fifth. In the top of the inning, Barton roughed up Trojans starter Reed Parris, who suffered his first loss after five wins, for four runs on two hits, a hit batter, a wild pitch and an error. The latter allowed Bulldogs third baseman Noah Almond, the lead-off batter, to reach base. Almond later scored on Jacob Marcos’ single to right-center field.

After senior right fielder Troy Maslowski was hit by a pitch, a wild pitch brought in a run and senior Hunter Pearre delivered another run on the first of his two sacrifice flies in the game.

Sophomore Colby Warren’s two-out single up the middle plated Maslowski with the final run of the uprising.

“That’s the only way that we would have a shot,” Chester said. “We knew the way we’d have a shot to win this series is that we’d have to capitalize on their mistakes.” 

Mount Olive got two runs back in the sixth on J.T. Stone’s home run off Hart but Bulldogs designated hitter Juan Martinez ripped a solo shot in the eighth for Barton.

Stone struck again in the bottom of the eighth with another two-run blast, this one off Barton reliever Frederick May. But the Bulldogs responded with two big insurance runs in the top of the ninth.

Hunter Little walked to start the inning against junior right-hander Kyle Davis, a C.B. Aycock High product who took over for Parris in the seventh. Maslowski singled to right and Little, who had advanced to second on a fielder’s choice, moved over to third before coming home on Pearre’s sacrifice fly.

After a walk to Warren, Martinez singled in Maslowski for his third RBI of the afternoon.

May gave up a lead-off walk in the bottom of the ninth before retiring the next three batters.

“The bullpen’s been great, especially through the last 10 games,” Chester said. “We needed to play a little bit and, from a coaching standpoint, the more we play, the more we figure out.”

Chester gave full credit to the players for Barton’s surprising start after posting the worst record in the program’s Div. II history in 2019. 

“I don’t want to be cliché,” he said. “We’re just taking this day to day. We’re just coming out and playing our brand of baseball. Our young men have worked really hard this year and we’re expecting to win when we go out there.”

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